work wardrobe essentials lead
CNN  — 

As we wave goodbye to the WFH-era style that’s dominated the past year (read: sweats and leggings), we say hello to the return of an office-friendly wardrobe. With many of us heading back to an in-person workweek, there’s undoubtedly a lot that’s going to take some time to get used to and comfortable with again. Fortunately, what you wear doesn’t have to be so complicated.

“Dressing for an office setting can be more motivating to get work done,” says Liz Teich, a professional stylist based in New York City. “It can also convey professionalism when connecting with clients,” she shares — something that may have gotten lost a bit in the era of Zoom meetings and presenting from our bedrooms.

Ahead, we’ve consulted experts on their recommendations when it comes to all things workwear. Whether your office has a business formal or casual dress code (or something in between), we’ve rounded up 39 pieces — all under $200 — for both men and women, perfect for giving your office wear wardrobe a little refresh.

Women’s work wardrobe essentials

Misha Nonoo Husband Shirt ($185;

Misha Nonoo Husband Shirt

A classic button-down is a timeless wardrobe staple, and a great piece to have on hand no matter your office’s dress code. This made-to-order pick can be customized to just the way you like it — down to the fabric, hardware and even monogram personalization.

“It’s a fun, chic twist on the boring button-downs most people own,” shares Teich. It’s also available in a wide range of sizes, from XXS to 4XL, which is always a huge plus in our book.

Aday Turn It Up Pants ($165;

Aday Turn It Up Pants

“Everyone needs a great pair of staple black pants in their wardrobe,” says Teich. “These comfortable pants are a blend of activewear and workwear, and can pass for every setting.” Not only do we love the versatility of these pants, but the elastic waist and flexible material make it way easier to find your perfect fit.

Petite Studio Buvette Pearl Pants ($115;

Petite Studio Buvette Pearl Pants

If you’re looking for a staple black pant with a twist, these cropped pants feature a slightly more dramatic flared cut and adorable pearl embellishments. Like all of Petite Studio’s clothing, these pants are designed to fit and flatter petite women — a huge bonus since (as most of us know) finding dress pants that fit can be a struggle, especially when you want to avoid having to get alterations done.

Express Supersoft Twill Boyfriend Blazer ($128;

Express Supersoft Twill Boyfriend Blaze

“A fitted blazer is a quintessential closet staple,” shares Amanda Watkins, a stylist and content creator who has worked in the corporate finance sector for the last 12 years. “It will elevate any workplace outfit from dull to ultra chic and professional.” While slouchier blazers are in style, Watkins advises you might want to save that style for outside the office, since it may be perceived as frumpy in certain scenarios.

Spanx The Perfect Pant, Hi-Rise Flare ($148;

Spanx The Perfect Pant, Hi-Rise Flare

“Wide-leg or flare pants are a universally flattering approach to fashionable trousers in the workplace,” shares Watkins. This option from Spanx is made from a smoothing ponte fabric that is absurdly comfortable. And we love the pull-on design — no wrestling with buttons or clasps here. Like with many of Spanx’s products, the size range is super inclusive, with petite, normal and tall cuts ranging in sizes from XS to 3X.

Vince Camuto Leopard V-Neck Top ($48.90, originally $74;

Vince Camuto Leopard V-Neck Top

According to Watkins, “animal prints are a fun way to add an instant pick-me-up to an outfit.” This blousey V-neck top is perfect for layering with a blazer, or pairing with dark jeans. It’s also super easy to sport outside of office hours as well — add a leather jacket and combat boots for a slightly edgy, super-stylish look.

Babaton Rosalia Blouse ($138;

Babaton Rosalia Blouse

Another simple way to spice up your basic blouse? Opt for an out-of-the-box material, like Japanese satin. This top pairs a drapey, glossy and super-luxurious-looking fabric with stunning details like a high mock neck, balloon sleeves and ruched waist. The result is a modest yet head-turning top that we’re absolutely obsessed with.

Banana Republic Madison 12-Hour Pump (starting at $59;

Banana Republic Madison 12-Hour Pump

“From grabbing coffee to dashing off to meetings, comfort is key,” shares Watkins. “That’s why I love pumps for the workplace that offer functionality and fashion.” She suggests having a pair of black, navy and flesh-colored heels — all neutral shades that you’ll end up getting a ton of wear out of. These pumps sport flexible leather, injected insoles, comfort pods at the sole and skid-resistant outsoles — all features that help keep you comfortable throughout the day.

M.M.LaFleur The Zhou Culotte ($195;

M.M.LaFleur The Zhou Culotte

Teich’s trifecta when it comes to work pants? Wrinkle-free, machine-washable and of course comfortable. “I dress these up with a button-down and heels for meetings, or pair with sneakers, a tee and denim jacket for casual settings,” shares Teich. “Either way I feel put together and not fussy.”

Max Studio Pleated Midi Skirt ($29.97, originally $98;

Max Studio Pleated Midi Skirt

Midi skirts are perfect for the office in so many ways, shares Watkins. Not only are they comfortable — since most sport a stretchy waistband — the hem is always office-appropriate. It’s “automatically flattering to every body shape,” Watkins says, “and helps your waist appear slimmer while enhancing your natural curves.

M.M.LaFleur The Woolf Jardigan ($195;

M.M.LaFleur The Woolf Jardigan

Offices tend to run cold, so it’s always smart to have a reliable sweater on hand. “It’s a good idea to reach for a polished piece like this one, rather than a sloppy sweater,” shares Teich. This “jardigan” — which blends the comfort of a cardigan with the polish of a jacket — is a more comfortable alternative to a blazer. Plus, it’s wrinkle-resistant and features removable shoulder pads.

Ayr The Chiller ($195;

Ayr The Chiller

For more casual offices, a pair of super-high-quality dark wash or black jeans is the perfect staple. “Stay away from jeans with distressing, embellishments and large logos,” advises Watkins. She also suggests pairing denim with a more dressy top, like a button-down or a blouse. These sleek, skinny jeans from Ayr are super comfortable and the perfect option for a more laid-back workplace.

Draper James Wrap Dress in Scattered Hearts ($135;

Draper James Wrap Dress in Scattered Hearts

A trusty midi dress is versatile enough for all sorts of different dress codes. Not only is this option comfortable and breathable, simply pair with heels and you have an outfit that’s polished enough for a business casual office. For workplaces with a more casual dress code, keep it comfy by opting for a dressier sneaker.

Av Norden Diana Romper ($67.50, originally $135;

Av Norden Diana Romper

Jumpsuits are a really simple way to look completely put together, shares Teich, who admits to living in them nowadays. This sleek option features a trendy cropped, wide leg and is made from super-soft organic cotton for a more luxurious feel. “I love throwing a blazer over this for a more professional look,” says Teich, “or a denim jacket in more casual work settings.”

Ally Shoes Gutsy Garnet Suede Flat ($195;

Ally Shoes Gutsy Garnet Suede Flat

One way to spice up your office wardrobe? “Utilize pops of color,” Watkins recommends. “It’ll help to offset a neutral color palette.” Teich echoes this idea: “If your office allows for it, have fun with color, patterns and especially in your accessories.” These stunning suede flats feature a pointed toe, which always feels dressier than a rounded one. It’s also available in four different widths, so you can find a perfect fit that’s sure to keep your feet comfortable all day.

Wilfred Valencia Blouse ($98;

Wilfred Valencia Blouse

Another simple way to incorporate some color into your wardrobe? The answer is your blouse. This mock-neck, puff-sleeve blouse is perfectly on-trend and available in a gorgeous yet subtle pink shade.

Lulus Westwood Black Half-Sleeve Sheath Dress ($58;

Lulus Westwood Black Half-Sleeve Sheath Dress

A sheath dress is “the perfect base later to start an outfit from or wear on its own,” shares Watkins. She suggests purchasing one in a solid neutral color and layering patterned or more vibrant pieces for a dynamic outfit. It can “take you from the boardroom to date night,” she says. “You get so much wearability out of the dress.”

Express Body Contour Double-Layer High-Neck Thong Bodysuit ($25.50, originally $34;

Express Body Contour Double-Layer High-Neck Thong Bodysuit

A bodysuit might not be your first instinct when it comes to workwear, but Watkins has a super-practical reason for suggesting you add one to your office wardrobe. For the days where you might be running around the office, you don’t have to worry about a bodysuit bunching or becoming untucked, like you might with other shirts or blouses. This tank is available in a ton of colors, and is perfect for layering under a cardigan, blazer or jacket.

Everlane The Cashmere Polo ($135;

Everlane The Cashmere Polo

For more casual offices, a semi-dressy sweater like this one is a must-have. Pair with a slip skirt or dark wash jeans for a perfectly professional yet super-comfortable outfit.

Everlane The Easy Blazer ($128;

Everlane The Easy Blazer

“A great-quality, tailored yet relaxed blazer can instantly make any look more polished and ready for the office,” says Teich. This slightly oversized option from Everlane is available in 10 sizes and made from 100% Lyocell — a smooth, drapey fabric that makes for a comfortable, loose fit without looking sloppy.

Anne Klein Collarless Jacket ($189;

Anne Klein Collarless Jacket

If you already have a classic blazer, opting for a jacket in a different material or in a fun yet professional pattern is the perfect way to add some personality to your office look. Watkins recommends this collarless, textured-weave jacket that features imitation pearl buttons. It goes perfectly with more business formal outfits but can also be used to dress up denim.

Abercrombie & Fitch Cozy Duster Cardigan ($65;

Abercrombie & Fitch Cozy Duster Cardigan

“Just like a blazer, a cardigan can instantly dress up a more casual ensemble,” shares Watkins, who considers a long duster cardigan like this one a must-have item in every professional’s closet. She suggests pairing a neutral color option (like this one) with a pencil skirt and shell tank top for a dressier look, or with denim for casual workplaces. And for offices that run cold, a piece like this is a simple and stylish way to keep warm.

Everlane The Modern Loafer ($100;

Everlane The Modern Loafer

For a shoe option that isn’t a flat or a pump, a loafer is a great alternative. This option from Everlane is made from a buttery soft leather that looks polished but doesn’t sacrifice comfort. There’s padding, a foam-cushioned insole and thicker stacked heel. Reviewers rave about how comfy these shoes are, and how they’re perfect for a business casual workplace.

Athleta Stellar Straight Crop Pant ($129;

Athleta Stellar Straight Crop Pant

“A well-fitting, cropped ankle pant in navy, khaki or black is a great base for any workwear outfit,” shares Watkins. They’re the perfect versatile staple that’s a breeze to dress up (with pumps and a button-down) or wear more casually (with a tee and flats or sneakers). This mid-rise option is available in 14 normal-length sizes, nine tall sizes and eight petite sizes — so no matter where you fall along the height spectrum, you can avoid a trip to the tailor.

Men’s work wardrobe essentials

Ministry of Supply Aero Zero° Carbon-Neutral Shirt ($125;

Ministry of Supply Aero Zero° Carbon-Neutral Shirt

“This brand makes the best sustainable and high-performance button-downs for men,” says Teich, who loves that Ministry of Supply shirts are machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant and really comfortable. They’re particularly perfect for business trips, or those who travel frequently for work. “I had a celebrity client take this in a suitcase across the country,” Teich shares. “He wore it on the red carpet without needing me there to make sure he was wrinkle-free!”

Bonobos Daily Grind Suit Jacket ($100, originally $275;

Bonobos Daily Grind Suit Jacket

A classic suit like this one is perfect for work dinners, office presentations, client site visits and everything in between. “Navy is such a power color in the workplace,” shares Watkins, who suggests mixing and matching your suit jacket and coordinating pant into separates to create different looks.

Everlane The Performance 5-Pocket Pant ($78;

Everlane The Performance 5-Pocket Pant

When it comes to comfort, “performance pants are the way to go, if your office dress code allows for it,” shares Teich. These office-friendly performance pants are made from a four-way stretch fabric. They’re sweat-wicking and quick-drying, and Everlane refers to them as “chinos for jeans people.”

Koio Portofino Oat Canvas ($198;

Koio Portofino Oat Canvas

When it comes to a casual workplace, Watkins recommends a white-soled sneaker as a great go-to shoe. These monochrome canvas sneakers are made of eco-friendly materials from Italy, and handcrafted from recycled and organic cotton-canvas. They’re sleek, comfortable and super stylish. If you’re willing to splurge for a slightly dressier look, Koio’s Capri Triple White sneakers are a fantastic leather alternative.

Untuckit Wrinkle-Free Pio Cesare Shirt ($99;

Untuckit Wrinkle-Free Pio Cesare Shirt

Collared shirts are a must in any guy’s wardrobe. But collared shirts that are comfortable, that don’t wrinkle and that look professional when they’re not tucked in? Untuckit shirts have it all, which is why the brand is our go-to place for casual to business casual tops.

Selected Homme Suit Jacket ($150.95;

Selected Homme Suit Jacket

Well-tailored suiting makes all the difference when it comes to workwear for men. “This brand makes the most affordable and sustainably made office-friendly separates and suits,” shares Teich. She’s a big fan of this suit jacket, which sports a neutral yet unique color that most men don’t have in their closets yet.

Bonobos Stretch Washed Chinos ($99;

Bonobos Stretch Washed Chinos

Bonobos’ bestselling chinos are bestsellers for a reason. They feature a super-comfortable stretch and signature curved waistband that make for a fit that feels and looks better. In addition to the pant waist and length size, you choose a fit and pocket liner style — making it just your own. As a plus, these chinos are available in tons of bright colors. So if your workplace is more casual, it can be a fun way to incorporate your own style into this classic pant.

Cole Haan Williams Cap Toe Oxford ($119.95, originally $220;

Cole Haan Williams Cap Toe Oxford

A pair of black and brown oxford dress shoes is always worth having in your wardrobe. “These two shoes will carry you through all office settings, formal events and anytime you have to look sharp,” shares Watkins. This classic option from Cole Haan is available in a black and brown shade, as well as in medium and wide sizes.

Untuckit Cotton-Linen V-Neck Sweater ($88;

Untuckit Cotton-Linen V-Neck Sweater

We’ve mentioned that offices get cold, which means having a professional yet comfortable sweater on hand is always advised. A V-neck pullover like this one is perfect for throwing over a button-down, since you’ll still look super polished. Opt for the classic navy, or try out a more unique color like the brand’s green or purple to add some color into your wardrobe.

Fresh Clean Tees Basic 5-Pack ($75, originally $85;

Fresh Clean Tees Basic 5-Pack

The perfect tee is a great piece for layering with sweaters, jackets or just wearing on their own if you work in a more casual office. It’s just crucial that they fit well and are in good shape, which means you might need to replace them fairly often. This pack of five is super soft and comfortable, available in both crewneck and V-neck styles and in sizes from small to 3XL. The range of neutrals are great so you’re not wearing the same color every day, but all are super easy to mix and match with different tops and bottoms.

Ted Baker London Jean Leather Belt ($65;

Ted Baker London Jean Leather Belt

“Something that often gets overlooked by men is a well-made belt,” shares Teich. “It really can make or break an outfit in terms of looking professional and not lazy.” This leather belt is perfect for pairing with chinos for a casual yet super-put-together outfit.

The Men’s Store at Bloomingdale’s Cashmere Half-Zip Sweater ($198;

The Men's Store at Bloomingdale's Cashmere Half-Zip Sweater

If you’re not layering, a half-zip or quarter-zip sweater like this one is another great option. “A quality sweater that properly fits can be one of the most flattering garments someone can wear,” shares Watkins. This cashmere sweater is a fan fave with a nearly 5-star rating from over 130 reviews. Plus, it’s available in a range of sleek, neutral colors perfect for mixing and matching with different bottoms.

Wills Garment Dyed Blazer ($198;

Wills Garment Dyed Blazer

Teich suggests that even men that work in a more casual setting should invest in a good blazer. This one is made from a lightweight, stretch material that’s comfortable enough to wear all day. It’s perfect for going “from behind the cubicle to meeting with a client instantly,” Teich notes.

Nordstrom Tech-Smart Trim Fit Sport Coat ($199;

Nordstrom Tech-Smart Trim Fit Sport Coat

“A sport coat is perhaps one of the best of all the staples,” shares Watkins, who notes various benefits to having one in your closet. “It’s one of the most versatile garments that allow you to look sharp and put together with minimal effort,” she shares. Plus, it’s perfect for so many occasions outside of the office — from weddings to family reunions and everything in between.

Fossil Fenmore Midsize Multifunction Smoke Stainless Steel Watch ($67.60, originally $169;

Fossil Fenmore Midsize Multifunction Smoke Stainless Steel Watch

Watkins considers a watch as the staple accessory to any man’s wardrobe. While she acknowledges it’ll help keep you on time for appointments and meetings, “its real value is in pulling together an outfit and showing the essence of a man’s style,” she shares. This classic option from Fossil comes with free engraving, so you can truly make it one of a kind.